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Atlas Performing Arts Center: Sprenger

Remaining Performances (tickets available here):

Thursday, July 16 at 10:45 p.m. Sunday, July 19 at 2:20 p.m. Saturday, July 25 at 7:05 p.m.

They Say: What is the litmus of a legacy? Can you trust your hands to fight if your memories betray you? A Hero’s last battle with a desperate opponent for his life, his legacy and his mind.

Marshall’s take: Lights rise on a scene out of a ’40s pulp radio show. Eddie (Peter Boyle), with the help of his vivid imagination (James Finley), reenacts a fight with villain Skullz and his goons. After doling out some bare-knuckled justice, Hero Complex shifts to a psychiatrist’s office and into a psychological drama for much of the play, until tensions rise to an explosive final act.

Live Action Theatre is well-known for their Robb Hunter-choreographed fights, but much of this play’s action is seen only through Eddie’s imagination, depicted as a live Foley artist. The sound effects lend a great air of nostalgic, beat-’em-up action.

Throughout these scenes is the open question: Is this just in Eddie’s head? When the psychiatrist (Rachel Menyuk) confronts Eddie’s imagination directly, the embarrassment of an excited child suddenly chastised hangs as thick in the air as the smoke from the many blank bullets fired.

Much of the play rests on the shoulders of “superhero” Eddie, and Boyle saves the day in his performance. Under Lex Davis’s direction, Eddie’s struggle is clear to the audience, but stops short of collapsing into melodrama. Boyle and Kristen Pilgrim’s meeting in the final act cinches the win for this show (it’s too much of a spoiler to get into here).

Engagement only wanes when Hero Complex turns down the well-trodden path of a possibly-delusional patient struggling against his psychiatrist. To their credit, Boyle and Menyuk seize each opportunity to show care and empathy.

Finally, Lee Gerstenhaber deserves Best Space Bug Designer* of Capital Fringe 2015, hands-down, no-competition, mic-dropped.

*Seriously, it’s in the program. And Gerstenhaber cannot be rivaled.

See it if: You like your psychological drama with a little POW!, BLAM!, and ZAP!.

Skip it if: You’re sick of the patient-versus-psychiatrist trope.